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Societal shifts reflected in child custody matters

This past weekend, sons and daughters across the Peoria area gathered with their fathers to celebrate Father's Day. There's no doubt that, regardless of a child’s age, fathers play an important and influential role in the lives of their children. While traditionally mothers were considered the primary caregivers and tended to take on the majority of child rearing duties, today more than ever, fathers are taking a more active role in their children's lives.

What happens then when a marriage or relationship between a mother and father ends? Previously many family law judges were more likely to grant a mother full physical custody with the father having access to a child every other weekend and the odd week day. Today, regardless of marital status, many fathers are fighting to retain child custody rights to raise and spend equal time with their children.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, in 2012, nearly 2 million U.S. dads were staying home to raise children. Twenty-five years ago, a reported 1.1 million fathers reported to being stay-at-home dads. The recent economic troubles of the mid-2000s is a major contributing factor to the increase in the number of stay-at-home dads as many men lost their jobs and remained home to raise children. The fact that more women are working today, many who out-earn their spouses or partners, is also contributing to the increased number of fathers staying home to raise children.

In cases where both a father and mother work and equally split child rearing duties, more fathers request joint child custody agreements. Driven by a desire to continue to play an active role and preserve a sense of normalcy in their children's lives, fathers who request joint custody must work hard to effectively co-parent with an ex-spouse or partner.

Influenced by a number of factors, the fathers of today are very different from those of 25 or 50 years ago. A large percentage of today’s dads come from divorced homes where time with their own fathers was limited. Consequently, many have vowed to be more involved in raising their own children and won't allow the end of a marriage or relationship to negatively influence relationships with their kids.

Source: USA Today, "More dads demand equal custody rights," Sharon Jayson, June 14, 2014

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